Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Speak Now by Kenji Yoshino

ISBN: 0385348800
Published: April 14th, 2015
Publisher: Crown
Read from June 11th to 16th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A renowned legal scholar tells the definitive story of the trial that will stand as the most potent argument for marriage equality.
In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 8, rescinding the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state. Advocates for marriage equality were outraged. Still, major gay-rights groups opposed a federal challenge to the law, warning that it would be dangerously premature. A loss could set the movement back for decades. A small group of activists, however, refused to wait. They turned to corporate lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies—best known for arguing opposite sides of Bush v. Gore—who filed a groundbreaking federal suit against the law.
A distinguished constitutional law scholar, Kenji Yoshino was also a newly married gay man who at first felt ambivalent about the suit. Nonetheless, he recognized that Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to hold a trial in the case was momentous. Boies and Olson rose to the occasion, deftly deploying arguments that LGBT advocates had honed through years of litigation and debate. Reading the 3,000-page transcript, Yoshino discovered a shining civil rights document—the most rigorous and compelling exploration he had seen of the nature of marriage, the political status of gays and lesbians, the ideal circumstances for raising children, and the inability of direct democracy to protect fundamental rights. After that tense twelve-day trial, Walker issued a resounding and historic ruling: California’s exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage violated the U.S. Constitution. In June 2013, the United States Supreme Court denied the final appeal in Hollingsworth v. Perry, leaving same-sex couples in California free to marry.
Drawing on interviews with lawyers and witnesses on both sides of the case, Yoshino takes us deep inside the trial. He brings the legal arguments to life, not only through his account of the case, but also by sharing his own story of finding love, marrying, and having children. Vivid, compassionate, and beautifully written, Speak Now is both a nuanced and authoritative account of a landmark trial, and a testament to how the clash of proofs in our judicial process can force debates to the ultimate level of clarity. 


This book essentially recounts the entire story of the Hollingsworth v. Perry trial from the very beginning all the way to the Supreme Court. Sprinkled into that story are bits of the author's own experiences that parallel what is happening in the trial.

As someone who was in high school for the bulk of the events described in this book, I was somewhat aware of what was going on with the case, but I had very little knowledge of all of the ins and outs of it. I never really knew exactly what it was that went on over the course of the case. This book does an excellent job of telling the story of the trial and going through all of the arguments made by either side. The author writes about how important the case is because it forced both sides to lay out their arguments and see how they held up in debate and fact-checking.

One really great aspect of the book is that even though you know which side the author falls on the issue, both sides arguments are presented, so you see the full extent of what was argued in court. As someone who's not extremely knowledgeable about law, I was also able to follow along easily and was never confused as to what exactly was going on.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Prop 8 and this case or gay rights in general. It does an excellent job of both fully telling the story of the case and also never being boring or dry. I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat at times while reading even though I knew the final outcome of the case. The personal bits that the author added also add to the book beautifully. This was just all around a really incredible book.

It also seems pretty fitting that I read this in June while we're awaiting the outcome of another marriage equality case from the Supreme Court, a case that is also mentioned in the end of the book. That added a bit more to the experience of this book I think since I knew that that is so close to coming, and that tie in to something mentioned in the book that is really about to happen while I was reading added a certain dimension to my experience with the book I think.

I received this book for review from the publisher.

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